Thursday, November 7, 2013

'X-Force' Launches With a Deadly New Group in February

USAToday: When Marvel Comics' original X-Force comic book launched in 1991, the first issue sold 5 million copies and remains one of the best selling of all time.

It was all a bit before the time of British writer Simon Spurrier (X-Men Legacy), yet he's taking the heightened violence and uncompromising tone of the X-Men franchise's past and turning it up to 11 in an all-new X-Force series launching in February with artist Rock He-Kim.

Dennis Hopeless' Cable and X-Force and Sam Humphries' Uncanny X-Force, both of which have been keeping the team name alive, will end their runs early next year after their four-part "Vendetta" crossover. 

There's an X-Force movie in development, to be directed by Jeff Wadlow (Kick Ass 2) — "the elephant in the room" — so Spurrier admits he's focused on having his clandestine and relevant special-ops squad stick to tradition and be dedicated to protecting the mutant cause with a no-holds-barred mind-set.

While his group — including team leader Cable, telekinetic Psylocke, loose cannon Marrow and artificially created secret agent Fantomex — is a dangerous one, the writer wants to explore the nature of their naturally destructive tendencies and possibly question them.

"What I've taken from those early X-Force episodes is a take-no-prisoners attitude towards action," Spurrier says. "But I like to think I've injected a little post-millennial sophistication, too."

"This isn't a steroidal macho-fest: It's a slick, nasty, oh-so-grim beast that'll cut your throat and blow up your headquarters before you even know it's there."

The first X-Force arc launches in the wake of a destructive event known as the Alexandria Incident, which has caused ripples through the intelligence communities around the world, damaged human/mutant relations, killed 3,000 people and, as Cable's concerned, changed the overall landscape in more ways than first thought.

X-Force arrives to figure out the who and why of it, and they'll be meeting a slew of global secret superhuman agents, specifically a new player "with a very unique — and very dangerous — mandate that connects back to something truly amazing from the wider Marvel canon," Spurrier says.

The series will lean heavy into Bourne-style espionage, though more proactive and faction-oriented.

Every nation in the Marvel Universe employs superhuman agents to pursue covert agendas — such as S.H.I.E.L.D., for example — and Spurrier says this new X-Force team acts as the "dirty-tricks department" for the mutant population to not just save the world but to make sure their race still has a stake in it.

That means assassinating threats and stealing technology and intelligence when situations call for it.

Spurrier sees X-Force as a metaphor for the prevalence of covert technology and intelligence-gathering agendas in the modern world.

"Switch on the news and you've got unmanned drones violating international borders, governments listening in on their enemies — their allies and their own civilians alike, —unregistered aeronautical tech deployed in the field, defected oligarchs dying of radiation poisoning, whistleblowers vilified and so on," the writer says. 

Through the lens of the Marvel Universe, it means X-Force needs to look out for mutants or wind up "being sidelined, marginalized, scapegoated and eventually hushed up, one secret mass grave at a time," Spurrier explains. 

"So we're playing with a lot of layers here. Factionalism, politics, violence, plus all the very human-level dramas that underpin any good team book."

And there's a lot of drama with this team, starting with Cable, whom Spurrier describes as Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name "if he'd grown up in a desolate future of crippled super-tech with extraordinary psychic skills."

He's a grizzled and determined guy, and the writer imagines Cable communicating in clipped quiet snaps — "like saving ammo," as Spurrier says one character puts it — and is utterly unstoppable when it comes to pursuing his outcomes or defending his daughter Hope.

"The best way I can put it is that he's carved from stone, but if you dared looked him in the eye all that boiling rage and hope and passion would knock you off your feet," says the writer.

A British aristocrat whose soul has been transplanted into the body of a Japanese assassin, Psylocke is not surprisingly dealing with uncertainties about identity, purpose and aim, according to Spurrier.

"She's almost unrivaled when it comes to stealthily killing enemies and yet she's trying her damnedest to pursue a non-lethal path," he says. "As we shall see, it's not an easy transition."

In addition to being designed to be the greatest at three things — thief, killer and secret agent — Fantomex comes armed with a detachable nervous system that can transform into a fully mobile flying saucer as well as some unresolved romantic issues with Psylocke that will play out in a destructive fashion.

"He's a wonderful bundle of extreme coolness and gentle insanity. He chooses to speak with an outrageous French accent because it makes the world a better place," Spurrier explains. "It's been programmed into his genes that he's literally incapable of conceiving that anything could be greater than himself — which sounds kind of cool, though if you think it through that's actually a sort of torture."

"This is a guy forced to spend his life living up to his own messianic expectations of himself. I figure that's enough to drive anyone secretly insane."

The final of the four core members is Marrow. Her bones can grow at an extraordinary rate, and she can make them come through her skin and then use them as weapons.

It's hard to keep that sort of thing a secret, especially from normal society, so she's lived a life full of bitterness, struggle and exclusion. Spurrier figures she's the team's Tank Girl or Cara "Starbuck" Thrace in that she's edgy, kind of crazy, unpredictable but wholly watchable.

"She's a fighter too damaged by own experiences to ever really fit in," Spurrier says. "She's one of those brilliant characters which the X-books handle so well who can't rightly be described as a hero or a villain: a product of her own tragedy."

With unsolved secrets and mysteries galore, the members of X-Force meet a significant new mutant in the first issue named MeMe and fit into the X-Men universe as independent operators.

Instead of asking for help or resources from their powerful mutant pals, Cable just wants them to stay out of the way and give X-Force their forbearance instead of sanction or gratitude.

"He's doing this for them, after all — fighting on behalf of a non-geographical nation which spends a ridiculous amount of its time fighting inwardly," Spurrier says.

The writer's major attraction to X-Force on the whole boils down to two things: believability and subversion.

Most superheroes exist as aspirational tropes to Spurrier but the X-Men have long had a history of being metaphorically tied to prejudice, civil rights and minorities, the writer says.

"I don't think there's anyone alive who hasn't felt excluded in some way at one time or another, and probably wanted to do something about it, so 'mutantism' feels like a very relatable suite of issues and stories. I believe in the way these guys behave."

Yet instead of having fans relate to the team members, Spurrier wants them to accept their struggle as more than simply good vs. bad.

"Some of the things X-Force gets up to, like all attempts to achieve political ends through violence, are extremely questionable," he says. "Readers, like the characters themselves, are going to have to come to terms with that and decide how they feel about it."


Rahsaan Chisolm said...

Yes. Sarah's back! I've missed her terribly. And X-Force is just the kinda book she needs to be in. I would love to see her dynamic with 'Ro still intact. Recall she used to hate Storm, but grew to respect and love her. Both her and Wolvie. Also, I hope they keep the look that she got after going through that Sh'iar machine. I love that look:

Rahsaan Chisolm said...

As for them describing Psylocke as telekinetic, I hope that means she returns to the usage of powers she has in Woods' run as both telepathic and telekinetic. Icing on the cake would be with some random, intermittent precog flashes.

FSaker said...

I'm really glad with Marrow's return (even if she looks fugly in this cover - I know she was never expected to look gorgeous, but she used to have slightly better looks), I loved her back in the late 1990s! But... when USAToday lists her power, are they (and is Spurrier) aware that she LOST her mutant power after House of M? She LOOKS like a mutant (since her bones remained stuck outside her skin), but she ISN'T a mutant. Unless a proper explanation is given...

Anyway, this team looks very cool! It's sad that C&XF and UXF had to be cancelled (although both Hopeless and Humphries didn't seem sad in that interview about Vendetta, so they may have gotten other books to write), but this team looks great, and so does this amazing cover!

I even considered that, with the announcement of the X-Force film, Marvel could be using this relaunch as a way to establish the movie team to the readers - then I remembered that the X-Force film will be produced by FOX, not Marvel (and Marvel hasn't been very supportful to promote the X-films produced by FOX)...

FSaker said...

Just one more thing: Psylocke's new X-Force uniform is excellent, I loved it! But I really hope that, whenever she isn't hanging out with the X-Force, she will still wear the uniform designed by Anka. I mean, this new uniform is cool for a black-ops team, but for a open-field superhero team like the X-Men (or better saying, Storm's X-Women), it doesn't stand out.

Rahsaan Chisolm said...


I pray that is not her public hero outfit. I agree thought. It's perfect for BlackOps.

I'm sure Marrow and Fantomex will have words with each other.

Whatever happed to Marrow's pretty look after the Shi'ar machined gave her control over her bone growth??? I didn't follow her after she left the X-Men and became rabid and feral once again... fighting with Spider-Man and carrying on...

Rylan Vanacore said...

Noooooooo! I loved Uncanny X-force, the team chemistry was great. Why did they have to cancel it.

Eduardo said...

I like the new team. Betsy never had an appropriate interaction neither with Cable nor with Marrow, so I think that this is something she can grow on. I wouldn't miss Fantomex at all and rather have Domino in this team.
I miss Tessa.

FSaker said...

Rahsaan Chisolm,

Marrow lost control over her bone growth (and subsequently her pretty look) after the High Evolutionary briefly depowered all mutants.

She had quite a hard time after that. First, S.H.I.E.L.D. brainwashed her and used her to kill Life Model Decoys (that was when she fought Spider-Man for the second time). Then, she became an assassin for the Weapon X program in exchange for regaining her good looks. Then she left Weapon X, founded a mutant terrorist group and lost control over her bone growth again.

Finally, House of M happened, and when it was over, Marrow lost her bone growth power - but the bones that had grown out of her skin before that didn't disappear, leaving her disfigured.

Now we have to wait and see if she somehow regained her power or not.

Rahsaan Chisolm said...

Wow. How sad. Sarah really never got a break. Where were the X-Men during this time? Did anyone from the team try to help her? Why did she leave the team after The Saga of The Twelve?

FSaker said...

Nope, none of the X-Men looked for her (although in their defense, it was Marrow who left the team, and she chose not to return). It was never explained why she left the X-Men, as far as I know; maybe she just decided she would be better with the Morlocks again (and indeed she returned to them before joining Weapon X, and after she left Weapon X she rejoined the Morlocks and shared the leadership with Callisto). Which is supposed to be her current status.

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